To Drive or Not to Drive in Central America?


Is it safe for me to drive in Central America?


I have recently been confronted with the above dilemma and you may well be too.



Let me share with you what I experienced when I mustered up my nerve and got behind the wheel of a car in Nicaragua.

Chaos like you cannot anticipate meets you as you pull out onto the road. All of your senses come to full attention, adrenalin rushes in.  I don’t remember this being on my driver’s test – ever!!

Be prepared for a myriad of massive trucks, barreling buses, taxis, horse carts, tuc-tucs, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians all vying for the same narrow ribbon of concrete that is misnamed  a highway. To me there is no rhyme or reason, but somehow it all seems to have a flow.













The road way itself is littered with the pesky pot holes and heavily camouflaged speed bumps. Don’t be looking for signage or directional arrows for guidance as they are most often forgotten or misplaced. Sometimes what you think is actually a road headed back to town will instantly morph into a goat trail or alley into someone’s yard.


Oh and that one way that I headed down in the wrong direction? The locals were generally amused and forgiving.



I have yet to mention the living moving obstacles which will include; dogs, chickens, horses, cows, lots of cows, and the old guy pushing an ice cream cart.


Little kids laugh and play unsupervised along the sides of the road and the buses load and unload at will.


The other day I found myself in the driver’s seat staring down a very large bull that had little interest in giving way to little old me. In good time he and his buddies shuffled along down the road.



Of course this is what you see in the light of day;   don’t even consider venturing out after night fall, lighting is optional.


So did I answer the question?

Not really but maybe you get the picture.

the joyful travellers

5 thoughts on “To Drive or Not to Drive in Central America?

  1. Great post. It reminds us when we rented a car in Managua in 2004…boy was that a trip.
    No signs and barely any maps. Stopping at one of the very few traffic lights and having the “windshield wiping crew” clean the rental car windows without even asking you and demanding a tip. Of course we complied.
    Trying to find the rental car place on our return from Matagalpa took us 2 hours!
    At least the windows were clean for them when we finally found the place!
    John and Susan
    Boquete, Panama

  2. Despues de vivir 4 anos, ya entiendo que al menos en costa rica un calle no es calle mas es un parque estrecha y cualquier cosa que encuentre en un parque se encuentre en la calle jaja.

  3. Nicaragua traffic is very light so problems with other cars is minimum. Animals are norman in an agricultural setting. Costa Rica traffic is horrendous there is something like 1.2 cars for family the roads have not been maintained like in Nicaragua and there is 10 times as much traffic. I have been driving for 62 years. before I came here 12 years ago I had 2 fender benders, here I can’t count them. I have seen so many major accidents. The drivers are mostly first generation drives who consider stop signs and speed limits as suggestions. You can drive but drive very defensively and know a good bodyman.

  4. Driving in Costa Rica has become much tamer since my first time on the road in 2001. I was honked at and passed for stopping at a red light. Forget trying to find a place on your own with the non-existent addressing system – which I hear the government is now addressing (pun intended).

    Driving in Nicaragua is much more pleasant for the simple fact that car ownership is extremely low.

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